Confronting the Past: Contemporary Eastern European Writers

Vaclav Havel (1936- )

Disturbing the Peace


  • Born in 1936 in Prague, Czechoslovakia (now Czech Republic).
  • Married Olga Splichalova in 1964 (d. 1996); married Dagmar Havlova, 1997.
  • Attended technical college and later the Academy of Art in Prague.
  • Served in the Czech army, 1957-59.
  • Member of the Committee for the Defense of the Unjustly Persecuted (VONS).


  • Imprisoned four times since 1977 for dissent, including 1977, 1979-83, 1989.
  • President of Czechoslovakia, 1989-92; president of Czech Republic, 1993--.
  • Won numerous awards as a playwright and author, including an several Obie Awards(1970, 1984, 1986-86), the Erasmus Prize (1986), the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award (1988), and the International Book Award (1991).
  • Also received many awards for his political leadership and defense of human rights, including the Avrell Harriman Democracy Award (1991), the B'Nai Brith Prize (1991), the Freedom Award (1991), the Raoul Wallenberg Human Rights Award (1991), the Indira Ghandi Prize (1994), the Philadephia Liberty Medal (1994), and the "Future of Hope" Award (1995).
  • Co-recipient (with German President Roman Herzog) of Statesman of the Year Award, 1997.
  • Received honorary degrees from numerous institutions, including Columbia University, Hebrew university, Harvard University, and Trinity College (Dublin).

Major Writings (available in translation)

Zahradni slavnost
(1964) [The Garden Party (1969)]
Vyrozumeni (1965)  [The Memorandum (1967)]
Ztizena moznost soustredeni (1968) [The Increased Difficulty of Concentration (1972)]
The Vanek Plays [Interview, A Private View, and The Protest] (1990)
Pokouseni (1985)
Largo Desolato (1986) [translation by Tom Stoppard, 1987]
Temptation and  Redevelopment (1994)

Other works
Contributor to The Oower of the Powerless: Citizens against the State in Central Eastern Europe, ed. by John Keane and M.C. Sharpe, 1985.
Vaclav Havel, or Living in Truth (essays), 1987.
Letters to Olga: June 1979 to September 1982 (correspondence), 1988.
Disturbing the Peace: A Conversation with Karel Hvizdala (interviews), 1990.
Summer Meditations (essays), 1992.
A Word About Words, 1992.
The Art of the Impossible: Politics as Morality in Practice; Speeches and Writings, 1990-1996, 1997.

Critical Sources and Reviews

  • Biographical and critical information in the following Gale publications: Contemporary Authors, Volume 104; Contemporary Authors, New Revision Series, Volumes 36, and 63; The Cold War, 1945-1991, Volume 2 [biography contains portrait]; Drama Criticism, Volume 6; and Contemporary Literary Criticism, Volumes 25, 58, and 65 [volumes contain portraits].  Gale Literary Database (Contemporary Authors Online) can be accessed online through a subscribing library at  

Retired Discussion Series

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